When I started this blog I wanted it to be about Pitt football – which it is with my own twists applied and with your comments, questions and suggestions. I believe you all appreciate the Pitt POV and the work that goes into it and so you should certainly believe that I appreciate all of you right back.
We Pitt fans love to talk about the football team, the Athletic Dept. and the university itself. That is what we care about and what has become – either in this century or the last – a big part of our lives be it if we are young or older. That is wrapped by the fact that at some point in our collective lives we all lived; slept, ate, drank and breathed in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.
Thus we become friends on here also.
I first noticed this phenomenon when I was writing on The Pitt Blather and realized I knew and cared about some people on there whom I have never met in person as much as I do my neighbors or my friends outside of the blog members writing, reading and commenting on shared things of interest.
So I’d like to take today’s article and talk to you as my friends who I want to share some personal things with.
My wife and I looked at each other a while ago and had the same thought at the same time; we had to get away from everything for a couple of days. We’ve had some rather serious family illness going on – but after 35 years of marriage these things come on, get dealt with and resolved and then we let it go. We are pretty good at that.
But this time something was different and I’ll tell you what was a big part of it. This upcoming election and the 24/7 bullshit thrown up by the candidates, their supporters and by all the media talking heads. I know we don’t talk politics on here and I’m not pointing out one party or person or the other, I truly am not, just that the whole thing is hard to believe and depressing as hell.
I’ve talked a lot about my career in the Coast Guard on here and will say one thing – after devoting 33 years of my life to serving the American public I’m honestly sad as hell that we’ve come down to this.
It is nothing but negative crap peddled by media people who insist on showing the rotten side of things to keep viewers enthralled, and their pockets lined, rather than try to sift through the noise and give us voters some semblance of concrete information on the candidates so that we can cast an informed vote in good conscience.
I read a recent poll that showed 57% of us felt that we are ‘stressed’ by what is happening this election. I believe that 100% and think it may be on the low side. It isn’t that people are sick and tired – it is that people are disgusted by how this is playing out via the media and there is a big difference between the two.
I was one of those stressed guys so we grabbed hands and took off to Smith Island, Maryland to escape… and boy was it an escape. Like going back in time 100 years escape… like another world escape.
Smith Island lays about 15 miles off the town of Crisfield, MD which is the southernmost tip of Maryland’s Easter Shore and the only way to get there is by boat.
Thus its isolation from the mainland and from the larger part of the rest of America. It isn’t exaggerating to say that a majority of the 270+ people who live there go across the Bay to ‘over there‘ maybe once or twice a year – and I met one lady who hadn’t done that, save a hospital visit, in over 20 years.
The Island is dependent on the centuries old business work of the Chesapeake Bay Watermen who have been pulling crab pots and tonging for oysters since they were children young enough to step onto a boat.
I didn’t see any man over the age of 60 who didn’t walk bent over due to decades of pole-pushing boats, pulling crab pots and using those huge iron & wood oyster tongs. The median age of the island is 58 years old so that was a lot of the men there.
The most interesting part of their lives, to me, is that they all speak an Old English Elizabethan dialect that is drawn-out and mumbled so strongly that ‘off-islanders’ can’t hardly tell what they are saying.
The video below was shot from a table in the only general store on island and is where my wife and I sat while eating crab cakes – also listening to a later group of older men talking the afternoon away. Take a listen to this group (they are actually talking about a fire started from an appliance):
Amazing – and that isn’t as strong an accent as what we heard. The only people without that old speech are the ‘newcomers’ to Smith Island which means anyone who moved there in the last 25 years apparently.
A strange thing is that even with the new technologies of today; satellite TV and the Internet and with the middle and high school kids going to Crisfield for school (by boat of course) and interacting with outsiders, the young people on the Island are not only still talking like that but with even stronger accents then their parents and grandparents have.
BTW – that shop above, one small restaurant and the church are the only public places. There is, surprisingly, a small post office that the USPS wanted to close down. That is until the postal guy who went there to inform the local population of the bad news the office would close realized, while on a boat going to the island, that it was indeed an island in every sense of the word. They kept it open with cut down hours.
We spent the night in an old B&B with nothing but our books and some food. No hosts at all, no one else in the Inn – just an open door (no one locks doors there) and some other food in the ‘fridge. Strange and eerie doesn’t begin to describe it.
The whole place was like it had stood still in time and is quiet as hell. Because there is literally nothing open past 4 pm we made coffee and sat and read our books and talked the rest of the day. At around 9:00 pm I went out and walked around the perimeter of the island and noticed halfway through that not one house had any lights one – not one. Everything was pitch black but for a lampost here and there and the high tide was bringing water down the streets.
The ‘breakfast’ part of the B&B were waffles and egg omelets in the freezer… ‘help yourself!’
When we went back to Crisfield the next morning (by the same boat) we stopped up the road for a real breakfast and were in conversation with some town locals there. When we told them we just got back from the island and they didn’t understand and said “You mean you actually spent the night there?!“
An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake by Tom Horton is a good book on the island’s history. But one piece of advice – there are morning tours of the island in the summer – boats out and back by noon. Do one of those because it really is interesting a place and the people are very nice. But get back to dry land before the ‘haints come out at night.
As weird as the whole experience was it really did relax me and gave me a chance to take a couple of days with no interruptions at all – we shut off our phones and didn’t take any other electronics with us. I sat back to take stock and reflect on just what things in life are of importance to me, what I hold dear, and what other things I can honestly say that I have no control over.
It is those last things that have to be put in perspective. So I did and will continue to do so because I owe that to myself and others around me.
Starting with not watching one iota of the news or anything else about this upcoming election until the evening of Nov 8th. I have good things to occupy my time. Family, good books, my music and a TV show or a movie to watch if I want entertainment. Plus… I have you all to share thoughts with and to discuss Pitt football and other things in our lives.
That right there is a gift my friends and I’ll hold onto that while putting my fingers in my ears to all else that is just noise at this point.